In our house, baking is a family affair. My five year old daughter has been helping me in the kitchen from the time she could stand on a chair or stool, and my almost one year old son loves to take part as well. From helping to measure or pour ingredients to mixing and stirring, or even just getting their hands into everything and making a flour-y mess - it's all about fun and learning.
We carry this family baking spirit right on into the holidays with us each year. We bake a wide variety of treats over the entire holiday season, to be enjoyed by everyone - friends, family, teachers, members of our community. And in our house, no one cookie says "Happy Holidays" quite like a gingerbread cookie. Sure we make lots of other cookies (and devour every crumb!), but there's nothing quite like the deliciously warm, spicy scent and flavor of gingerbread to make the season that much more special.
The following is our favorite gingerbread cookie recipe.
(from Grandma's Molasses)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
In a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and molasses. Add egg and beat until well combined.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter/egg mixture.
Once the dough has come together, wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours (or you can put it into the freezer for an hour, if you are pressed for time). (The dough can rest in the refrigerator overnight, too, if it is easier to make it a two-day process.)
When you are ready to bake the cookies, it is best to divide the dough into portions, to allow the portions not being used to remain in the refrigerator while you are working with one section.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll each section of dough to approximately 1/4" thick and cut into shapes using the cookie cutter(s) of your choice. Lay each cookie onto a baking sheet, about an inch apart. You can decorate the cookies with sprinkles or chocolate chips prior to baking, if you wish.
Bake each tray of cookies for 8-10 minutes.
If you choose to decorate these cookies after they are baked, allow them to cool fully first.
Please note that this recipe makes delicious cookies, but shouldn't be used for gingerbread houses - you need more of (what we refer to as...) a "construction grade" gingerbread cookie for house-building, and these cookies are soft and chewy.